Our Somewhat Lame Daily Drivers

As automotive enthusiasts and experts, people ask us all the time what we drive — what an automotive journalist drives is the best endorsement, right? We wish we had better responses, but the sad truth is we’re a lot less cool than some people assume we are.

We should just lie and tell everyone we drive BMW M5s and fire-spitting Italian exotics. But seriously, the cars we own are kind of lame (except for Jason and Sami, apparently).

Here is the list of the somewhat embarrassing cars we have as daily drivers:

Colum Wood – Editorial Director – 1998 Acura EL

A glorified Honda Civic. That’s what the Acura EL is. Made only for the Canadian market, it’s an unheard of machine in most of the world, but was a hit in Canada, which caught onto the whole compact premium trend long before it was a thing in the U.S.

Why would anyone want to own such a car? That’s a question easily answered by a 22-year-old woman who just graduated from university and landed her first job. For a 35-year-old man, however, it’s more complicated. I married that woman, traded in my Honda S2000 for a Mazda5 when we had our first child and then just started driving the EL because it was there.

My not-so-sweet Acura EL just got a little sweeter. New rims and tires.

A photo posted by columwood (@columwood) on

It’s got a complete Eibach suspension setup, a short shifter and an aftermarket exhaust. But trust me when I say I’m not trying to be either fast or furious. Being in this business, repairs are just cheaper using aftermarket parts.

Just shy of 300,000 km on the clock, it’s showing it’s age and I rely on nature’s air conditioning after the A/C compressor broke and the replacement cost was more than the value of the car.

Maybe I’ll get rid of it next year … although that’s what I’ve been saying for close to a decade.

Mike Schlee – Road Test Editor – Mazda2 and 2008 Suzuki SX4

Although I’ve had a fleet of obscure and fun cars in the past, currently, my stable consists of two horribly passé rides. Our main family car is a 2008 Suzuki SX4 Sport sedan that was bought new and so far has been problem-free. Astute readers will realize the 2008 SX4 still came with an antiquated four-speed automatic instead of the newer continuously variable transmission in 2008.

Rarely sharing driveway space with the SX4 is my 2014 Mazda2 Touring. Equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, the Mazda2 is what I refer to as my “leave behind car.”

Mike Mazda2

I only drive the Mazda2 once a week, as in my profession, I spend most of the time driving press vehicles. To obtain these press vehicles, I need to drive my car short distances from one manufacturer’s head office to another, at which point I then leave my car behind for the week.

I used to use all sorts of cool cars for this task, like a 1997 Subaru SVX, 1990 Mazda MX-5 and a 2005 Saab 9-2x Aero. But old, finicky cars do not like to sit for long periods of time, especially during harsh winter conditions. So last year I made the plunge to get something simple and reliable – my Mazda2.

Jodi Lai – Managing Editor – 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit

Any car with five cylinders is apparently a hipster car, so if my friends are right, then my Rabbit totally suits me. To be fair, I inherited this car from my ex-husband, who used it as a work car for a few years before I bought out the lease. Trust me, squirrel grey is the last colour I would have picked. Still, my trusty Rabbit has never failed me (except for the fact there is also a sex toy that shares the same name). Two people have learned to drive stick in it, it has over 106,000 km on the clock, and I haven’t needed any major service on it besides regular maintenance. It’s not an exciting car, but it’s really well-built and I can fit nearly anything in the hatch, so I still love it. Wheezy five-cylinder engine and all.

Craig Cole – Associate Editor – 2002 Ford Focus ZX3 (because a ZX5 would have been FAR TOO EXTRAVAGANT)

2002 Ford Focus ZX3

Eleven years is a long time. It’s an especially lengthy span when you have trouble remembering yesterday, but that’s how long I’ve owned my 2002 Ford Focus ZX3, since 2004 in fact, not Tuesday … at least I think. Remind me, what year is it?

I acquired this bulbous hatchback during the halcyon days of 2004, before Wall Street invented the Great Recession. Ostensibly, it was a reward for completing my second first-year of college, but that’s another story. At the time, this little Ford had everything I wanted in a car, sporty dynamics, impressive capaciousness and more importantly than anything else, a manual transmission.

2002 Ford Focus ZX3 Interior

Amenities abound in its cockpit. A six-disc CD changer is fitted right into the head unit, there’s power everywhere (except under the hood) and it even has keyless entry, well, keyless in that you can unlock the doors with a computerized fob, not just a stamped piece of metal. Such innovation!

Created during the company’s self-proclaimed “new edge” design phase, this car’s styling and particularly its cabin looked decades ahead of their time, either that or they’re a delirious vision what people in the 1970s thought the future would like. Where’s my 100 mile-per-gallon carburetor?!

To bolster its malnourished 2.0-liter Zetec engine (no relation to VTEC) I eventually outfitted it with a Ford Racing cylinder head, aftermarket camshafts and a handful of other performance enhancements, largely because I’m a master of ill-conceived ideas, one of my precious few talents.

Fortunately, these self-installed upgrades really woke the car up and I spin it to at least seven grand every time I drive it just to experience the thrill of a nine-second zero-to-60 blast. In retrospect, an SVT model would have been a smarter choice, delivering higher performance, better styling and greater exclusivity right out of the box, but whatever. So far, my humble ZX3 hatchback has rolled 180,000 largely trouble-free miles over 13 years, all on the original clutch no less, so I can’t complain.

1936 Ford Fordor Sedan

Sure, it’s starting to rust a little and the paint is more weather-beaten than a Bearing Sea crab boat, but I’m in no rush to get a new car. I keep the Focus around because it allows me to enjoy my true love, another ancient Ford that’s dressed in black.

Jason Siu – Contributor – 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45

Going against all the wishes of my fellow AutoGuide editors, I decided to sell my Subaru BRZ after realizing that driving a manual transmission in Southern California is quite possibly one of the worst ideas ever. When I first spotted the Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show at a press-only event that wouldn’t even allow us to take photos, I knew it was likely going to be my next car. After getting an offer I couldn’t refuse on the Subaru BRZ, I went and ordered a custom CLA 45 AMG that promptly took eight months to deliver – but the wait was well worth it. Yes, the front-wheel bias is still very strong despite it having 4MATIC, but let’s be honest, daily commuting in Southern California is a far cry from taking a hot lap on the Nurburgring.

mercedes-benz-cla-45-amg

Having grown up modifying Hondas in the earlier years of my automotive life, I have absolutely nothing against turbocharged four-cylinder engines, and the CLA 45 AMG truly delivers. Combine that with the fact that it actually gets respectable fuel economy and that it’s pretty comfortable even with the AMG package seats by Recaro, and the CLA 45 AMG is a great daily driver – although I’ll have to argue with Jodi that it’s lame.

Now the big question is whether I’ll hold on to the CLA 45 AMG for more than three years, considering my past habits of getting rid of cars…

Sami Haj-Assad – Features Editor – Scion FR-S

Sami is on holidays while we’re here working, so he doesn’t get to participate. He also drives a Scion FR-S, which is not lame at all. Whatever, Sami. Whatever.

#TGIF[R-S] from TMP shoot!

A photo posted by Sami Haj-Assaad (@sami_ha) on

Stephen Elmer – News Editor – 2010 Honda Fit

Here at AutoGuide, you know me as the truck guy. I’ve worked with pickup trucks my whole life and I am commercially licensed truck driver, but I have dirty little secret. I’ve never owned my own pickup. What’s more, I drive what you could call the antithesis of pickup trucks: a Honda Fit.

My 2010 Honda Fit is a base model that was bought out after it came off lease. The former owner was clearly a Pizza Hut delivery guy, as you can still see the outline of the old stickers on the windows when the light hits it just right. It makes me happy thinking about all the people my car has pleased with a cheesy delivery.

20141005_151727

When people ask me how I like the Fit, my default answer is always bragging about the large stuff I’ve crammed into my little Honda. A drum kit and two amps? Done it. A treadmill? No problem. Five people and two TVs? You know it. I usually gloss over a few details, like the loud cabin, overly stiff ride and uncomfortable seats, and skip straight to telling folks about the incredibly useful rear magic seats, the little storage cubbies on the dash and the solid fuel economy I get from my little Honda.

With just about 43,000 miles on the Fit, I’m guessing that it will remain with me for quite some time. Especially if it’s anything like my first car, a 1993 Honda Accord, which just will not die no matter how much abuse you lay on it. I guess you could say this Honda Fits my lifestyle.

(For what little redemption it’s worth, I’ll also mention that I am currently building a 1987 Ford Ranger into an off-road racing truck with my dad and brother. But I don’t own it, so I still can’t claim to have my own rig. One of these days I’ll join the club).

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